Jays make Rodón work as Yanks drop third straight

April 17th, 2024

TORONTO -- sat hunched forward on the bench in the visiting dugout at Rogers Centre, his elbows resting on his thighs. He’d worked hard to get through four innings, evidenced by the sweat seeping through his uniform top, as though he’d run through a sprinkler on a summer day.

The evening was a grind for Rodón, who leaned heavily on his fastball and struggled to generate swings and misses to escape from sticky situations. The Blue Jays wore Rodón down, gassing the left-hander early as the Yankees absorbed their third consecutive defeat, a 5-4 loss on Tuesday night.

“I give them props, because they had some really good at-bats,” Rodón said. “They made me work. It was tough. I wish I was better tonight. I had good stuff; I had stuff to get guys out, but they had a good approach.”

The Yankees lost their first series of the season, generating little to counter a dominant effort by Yusei Kikuchi. The lefty struck out nine, limiting New York to one run on four hits and one walk over six splendid innings.

“When I’m getting my pitch, I’m just missing it,” said captain Aaron Judge, who went hitless in four at-bats and is batting .182 (12-for-66). “We’ve got to keep throwing out good at-bats and take my walks when I can if I don’t get anything.

“Just keep staying aggressive; that’s the only way to put up some hits, especially with our lineup. You’ve got to keep swinging.”

Rodón could have used some thunder behind him. As Judge said, “These are the ones that kill you as a hitter; just give the guy a couple more runs.” Rodón threw 32 pitches in the first inning (including a 12-pitch Bo Bichette walk) and another 27 in the third, navigating heavy traffic.

Justin Turner lifted a sacrifice fly in the third, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. cashed two runs with a fourth-inning single off Rodón, who tossed 101 pitches (62 strikes), permitting five hits and four walks while striking out five.

“It was death by the foul ball tonight. They just kept spoiling pitches,” manager Aaron Boone said. “He was in the strike zone, and the stuff was really good, but they outlasted him. A couple of the walks that ended up coming around and scoring did him in, but I thought he threw the ball well.”

Of the 36 swings Toronto took at Rodón’s four-seam fastball, only five generated whiffs. Rodón had better success with his slider, seeing misses on five of eight swings.

Rodón’s first four starts have been a mixed bag. Through 19 2/3 innings, he has pitched to a 3.66 ERA with 18 strikeouts, but he has allowed 33 baserunners (22 hits and 11 walks).

“It’s been all right,” Rodón said. “I’ve had one real good game thus far (April 9 vs. Miami). The other ones have been battles where I’ve been inconsistent with some command. It seems like I just need to be more effective with the secondaries and get in the zone so I can pitch deeper in the game.”

Jose Trevino knocked in New York’s run off Kikuchi, with Giancarlo Stanton scoring from second base as the ball skipped away from catcher Danny Jansen. Toronto added a pair of runs in the sixth facing Nick Burdi, with a couple of plays by second baseman Gleyber Torres looming large.

Torres attempted to throw to third base ahead of Ernie Clement on an Isiah Kiner-Falefa grounder, but the out call was overturned after a Blue Jays challenge. Torres then flubbed a throw to second base on a Kiner-Falefa steal that allowed Clement to trot home.

“The first one, that’s a heads-up play by Gleyber,” Boone said. “I have no issue with that.”

The Yankees made the game close, scoring twice in the seventh and bringing the potential go-ahead run to the plate in the ninth. Trevino picked up his third RBI of the game on a groundout before Jordan Romano retired Oswaldo Cabrera for his first save of the season.

“All the way to the very end, we’re competing,” Judge said. “We almost tied it up there late in the game. They’ve got a great pitching staff over there. As an offense, we’ve got to keep working. Keep doing what we’re doing, passing the baton, and we’ll be fine.”